August 18, 2019

Is This Pro Lacrosse’s Moment? This Star Is Betting Everything on It

Is This Pro Lacrosse’s Moment? This Star Is Betting Everything on It


Like golf and tennis, the P.L.L. has a touring model designed to spread the sport’s exposure as widely as possible, with six teams hitting 12 cities over summer weekends, with the league playing a total of three games each weekend. The festivities include instructional clinics, player interaction, contests and other offerings. The events evoke the energy of lacrosse’s marquee event: the N.C.A.A. tournament’s semifinals weekend, which attracts up to 90,000 fans every year.

The P.L.L. drew about 11,000 fans a weekend in June, its first month, peaking with about 16,000 on the weekend in Baltimore, a lacrosse hotbed. About 400,000 fans viewed a Sunday game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., over three NBC platforms.

“Our fans care deeply about the sport and the stars,” Paul Rabil said. “They support world-class lacrosse and will follow their favorite players and teams, no matter if the game is home, away, or at a neutral site.”

It’s this last piece of the equation that draws skepticism. Brendan Kelly, owner of the M.L.L.’s Chesapeake Bayhawks, has his doubts about the tour.

“Team sports require community support,” Kelly said. “And I don’t know how you build a community around a tour.”

The M.L.L. has been left to fight for its survival. It has bought back its media rights, raised player salaries and folded three franchises, leaving both leagues with six teams. Kelly said he believes his league will survive and could one day merge with the P.L.L. Rabil said he believes his will offer a better experience for both fans and players.

“If you can distill pro sports down into must-haves, you need to recruit and invest in the best players in the world, a major network distribution deal and a first-class fan experience,” Rabil said. “Pro lacrosse has never been positioned to capitalize on all three of these, until now. We’re a sports league and a media company.”



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